I recently encountered the word draftsman in a law review article. That prompted me to give some thought to use of the word.

It’s certainly commonplace—a search of the TP-ALL database on Westlaw (“All Law Reviews, Texts & Bar Journals”) retrieved some 5,000 articles written in the last three years that use it.

I prefer to avoid gender-specific language. And not out of raging political correctness, but just because much gender-specific language seems old-fashioned now. I think that’s the case with draftsman. Just as anchorman has given way to anchor, the switch from draftsman to drafter should be painless. And it’s well under way—when I searched on Westlaw for articles written in the last three years that use drafter, Westlaw stopped counting at 10,000. (The clumsy draftsperson isn’t a serious choice. It appears in only 19 articles written in the past three years.)

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

6 thoughts on ““Draftsman””

  1. The difference is between the UK and the US. “Draftsman” is standard usage in the UK and “drafter” is hardly used at all. Similarly, “batsman” is used in cricket, while “batter” is used in baseball.

  2. I am in the US and have never heard anyone use drafter. I have however had to contend with the frightful business of turning people into furniture. Let’s please stop the politically correct nonsense and call a spade a spade and a chairman a chairman.

  3. Donald: Your experience is, like my experience, less relevant than some sort of objective assessment of the way people actually write. In that regard, my Westlaw searches are more informative. And I made a point of noting that I don’t regard my preferences as being motivated by political correctness. Other middle-of-the-road sorts, including Bryan Garner, share my views on this. Ken

  4. An “objective assessment of the way people actually write”? Surely, that can’t be your standard. Otherwise, so highly prescriptive a book as yours would be superfluous.

    Garner makes the point that a writer ought to keep his (oops) audience in mind, and so if “draftsman” is going to piss people off, then one ought to avoid it. On the other hand, “drafter” has some interesting alternative meanings (see OED 2d ed.) that introduce just enough ambiguity into the use of the term to make me uncomfortable. And “draftsmanship” vs. “drafting skill,” well, there’s no contest about which choice better captures the poetry of English.

  5. William: You’re correct that if I think a given usage isn’t the most efficient option, generally I won’t be swayed by cries of “But that’s the way everyone does it!” But when it comes to matters of style, the popularity of a given usage is worth considering.

    I don’t have the OED to hand, but I can’t think of any ambiguity that would interfere with using drafter to mean one who drafts contracts. Let me know if I’m missing anything.



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